Gratitude, Contribution, and an Abundance Culture

Let’s look at some more positivity research and a real positive case. Thanks to Kim Cameron for inspiring us with positive leadership research and practices – here are more things that you can do, too!


Research with Positive Practices shows that they increase our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. For instance: Two groups were asked to journal every day. The first group focused on three good things that happend, the second on three problems. They all received a Flu shot. The positive journalers had more antibodies against the flu, greater creativity and mental acuity.

A gratitude journal impacts performance, and also influences organizations! The former CEO of Campbell Soup, Doug Conant, induced a company-wide culture of gratitude by writing five gratitude cards per day. Conant sent more than 30,000 handwritten thank-you notes during his career. When Conant became the CEO at Campbell Soup, the stock price was falling and it was the worst performer of all the major food companies in the world. By 2009, the company was ahead of the S&P Food Group and the S&P 500.

Contribution Goals

Positive emotions, a positive focus, gratitude: they help to improve performance and strength. They also build positive relationships. Social relationships improve everything: our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

Jennifer Crocker, for example, researched the goals of freshmen. She discerned achievement and contribution goals. Achievement is about what I’d like to achieve, contribution about what I’d like to contribute (to others). The freshmen with contribution goals outperformed the achievement-goals students. It’s super motivating to contribute to the greater good or to others and this brought out the best in those freshmen. Their grades were better, their health, and also what they meant for others.

If you want to improve your relationships in the organization and your performance: develop contribution goals. You could start giving more: give mentoring and coaching, give recognition. This aligns with Adam Grant’s research as well about givers, matchers, and takers. Givers add trust and value to the culture and enhance organizational performance.

Prudential Financial

It’s not just research, by the way. Here’s a real-life positive case. In April 2004, Prudential Financial, Inc. acquired the retirement business of CIGNA Corporation. Prudential’s retirement department merged with Cigna’s and that was a culture clash as Cigna had always been “the enemy”. Cynicism and low morale ensued. They were struggling. Fortunately, their CEO John Yong Kim started applying positive leadership practices.
He said: “Implementing positive leadership practices was initially seen as just being positive—smiles. It became clear, however, that this was a significant change. This is about changing our culture, our strategy, and our approach. It is not a destination or a conclusion but a process. If I wanted to stop this movement I couldn’t. It’s way beyond my control. People are doing things now that are self-perpetuating.” (Example shared by © Kim Cameron).
The results were amazing. The retirement business achieved a successful culture merger. Their losses turned around to substantial profitability, and they had a 20% annual growth. They kept 95% of their clients. They grew from 160 million to over 1 billion and are now the largest business in Prudential.
Interesting enough, this didn’t change when they got a new CEO in 2007. This was not a temporary leadership thing: the organization’s culture had really changed.

The same happened to Prudential’s Real Estate department. Their new CEO, Jim Mallozzi, was trained at Prudential Retirement. When he started there was high turnover, low morale, and they were 70 million in the red.
Jim Mallozzi, CEO: “I harkened back to my Prudential Retirement days and what I learned about positive organizational scholarship. The message was, let’s look at what we have as opposed to what we don’t have. Let’s look at what we can do as opposed to what we don’t do. How do we start to take the limits off our company, not in terms of just going back to where we were two years or five years ago, but how do we achieve something that is truly great and never seen before in our industry? We implemented a variety of positive practices and tools, and the results were astounding.” (Example shared by © Kim Cameron).
Prudential Real Estate trained 93% of their employees in positive leadership, achieved a 20 million profit, and won the JD Service Award.

Abundance Culture

Kim Cameron’s conclusion after 15 years of research is this: An abundance culture and implementing positive leadership practices is significantly and positively related to performance (e.g., profitability, productivity, quality, innovation, customer satisfaction, employee retention).

How do you recognize an Abundance Culture in organizations? You’ll notice gratitude and appreciation, support and compassion, caring and concern, meaningfulness and purpose, forgiveness and understanding, trust and integrity, and last but not least: positive energy and inspiration. An Abundance, or Positive Culture can only develop with Positive Leadership.

How can you integrate gratitude into your days or your workplace?
Could you develop contribution goals and help others more?
How could you develop an Abundance culture?

Do you want to practice positive leadership? Enroll in the Positive Culture Academy.

© Marcella Bremer, 2019. All rights reserved.

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